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April 09, 2004

Bidding up houses

The strong rise in house prices in King County and in Snohomish County runs counter to recent economic events. King, in particular, is the richest county in the state, per person, and was ground zero for the dot-com boom and the Boeing boom of the late 1990s. It was also hit the hardest in the ensuing bust. Employment Security’s year-end report shows that King and Snohomish counties had not recovered by Dec. 31, 2003.

Forget the unemployment rate. Think of employment, the total number of people working. That is a measure of buying power. Well, the total employment in the two counties was down eight percent from Dec. 31, 2000. None of the other big counties had been hit so hard. Whatcom, Kitsap and Thurston continued to add jobs through the recession as if there were no recession at all. Pierce and Clark lost some, but made them all up. King and Snohomish remained in an employment hole.

We’re talking roughly about a net loss of 120,000 jobs. That many jobs just went away. It’s a lot. And people responded by bidding up houses even further, so that a $300,000 house is now considered a “starter home.”

Amazing.


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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at April 9, 2004 11:27 AM



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